- Tuesday, 13 November 2018
- Written by STEPHANIE CRIDER
For the past 20 years, the Heart of Christmas Show has warmed hearts and spread joy, embracing everything good and fun about the holidays. The show takes place the weekend after Thanksgiving, and without fail, it puts the community in the Christmas spirit, celebrating everything about the season – from ugly Christmas sweaters to peace on Earth and baby Jesus. Saturday, Nov. 24, and Sunday, Nov. 25, head to the Crown for one of the community’s most heartfelt and inspired productions.
Keeping things fresh from year to year while maintaining all the audience favorites falls squarely on the shoulders of the show’s founder, Laura Stevens. Last year, she changed about half of the show. This year, she’s done some more tweaking. “I went about this year’s lineup by thinking by about what got us here,” she said. “I have brought back a few (numbers) from the past.
“I have listened to our sponsors, performers, parents and audiences and tried to get all the favorites in the show and still add some new elements.”
The format remains the same, though. The first half of the show is lively and lighthearted – think snowmen, gingerbread, Christmas trees and more. The second half embraces the true meaning of Christmas with traditional songs like “Silent Night,” “O’ Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Mary Did You Know?”
Among the new elements are what Stevens called a very funny ugly sweater Christmas song that she predicts will be a crowd favorite. She also added a 1950s medley. “That style is a lot of fun,” she said. “In the second half, in the manger scene, I am going for what I think might be one of the most beautiful manger scene moments you have ever seen – including angels. It is a big moment with a ton of meaning.
“If you’ve never seen HOC, you owe it to yourself to see what the chatter is about. There is something for everyone; there’s funny things and beautiful things. It is an awesome way to celebrate everything there is about Christmas.”
Adding to the impressive nature of this endeavor are the 30-plus performers, all between the ages of 5 and 18. That can lead people to believe it is a kids’ show, but Stevens has proven that’s not the case time and again with Broadway-type performances that leave audiences raving.
Stevens said, “The No. 1 comment I get is, ‘Wow, I cannot believe what I just saw.’ The next is, ‘It’s hard to believe that is all young people!’ And the third is ‘Shows at Myrtle Beach aren’t this good. We also bring in dancers from Elite Dance Center. Michelle Hurd, Callie Leechford and Victoria Armstrong have partnered with me for 15 years and bring an element of beauty to the show. They bring in a team of eight dancers every year, and they are amazing.”
Another change to the current production is areach back to the show’s early years. “I am going to bring back the theme song to the Heart of Christmas Show,’’ Stevens said, “to show all the outreach and what we have been able to do, as a tribute to the people who have been in it and to the good work of the outcome of the show.”
Stevens came up with the idea for HOC when Voices of the Heart, a local, all-girl Christian music group, won a high-profile national competition in Alabama. VOH still makes up a big part of the HOC Show. “I didn’t want it to go to their heads,” said Stevens. “They were on TV and were getting a lot of attention. I wanted their focus to be the correct one. We decided to put on a show and give all the money away. That first year we gave away $8,000. Now, we give away about $35,000 and raise about $25,000 for the schools – after a while that adds up to be a lot of money.”
HOC has given more than $750,000 to date, and it all stays in the community. Organizations that benefit include the Autism Society, Child Advocacy Center, Friends of Children, Make A Wish Foundation, AGAPE and Falcon Children’s Home.
With more than 300 sponsors footing the bill for production costs, Stevens said the money from each ticket sale goes right back out the door. “Our sponsors set money aside every year – in spite of things like hurricanes. And we have done what we said we would do,” Stevens said.
“The show is run by parents and volunteers. The parents are nurses, doctors, judges, teachers and more who work backstage and make that show happen. They believe in the common good of it. When we give the funds away, it is a good feeling to know we can do something to touch someone else’s life. This is not just a Christmas show, it a show with heart and a purpose and a mission to do good things for other children.”
General performances are Saturday, Nov. 24, at 1 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 25, at 3 p.m. Purchase tickets at The Crown Center Box Office, Hailey’s Bicycle World or www.heartofchristmasshow.com/ticket-reservations.
There are also several school shows. Call 910-978-1118 to learn more about the school performances.
- Tuesday, 06 November 2018
- Written by STEPHANIE CRIDER
If the richness and ornate detail of the 17th and 18th centuries speak to you, if Bach and Vivaldi make your heart flutter and sooth your soul, Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra’s performance of “The Royal Court of Brandenburg” demands your presence for an exquisite evening of beloved masterpieces by Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi. Thursday, Nov. 15, the symphony will fill St. John’s Episcopal Church with the regal works of the masters.
The concert by FSO musicians will feature some of the Baroque era’s most well-loved pieces. In 1721, Bach presented the royal court with six Brandenburg Concertos. “We have performed other movements of Brandenburg,” said FSO President and CEO Christine Kastner. “It has been about three years (since that performance). There are six pieces. We did (Concertos)2 and 5 last time, and the churchwas full. We will do (Concertos) 3 and 4 this time.”
In “Concerto No. 4,” the concertino consists of a violin and two flutes, which are accompanied by a string quintet and harpsichord.
“Concerto No. 3” has nine solo strings – three violins, three violas and three celli – with bass and harpsichord accompaniment.
Bach’s concertos are still cherished around the world today. “It is interesting,” said Kastner. “We always get a few military people who come. And they say they were stationed in Germany and saw it there and wanted to see it here, too.”
Also included in the concert will be portions from Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor” as well as the bright and lively “Concerto for Two Trumpets” by Antonio Vivaldi.
Vivaldi’s “Concerto for Two Trumpets” features solos with orchestral accompaniment, unlike Bach’s pieces, which showcase the ensembles as a whole. Vivaldi’s piece shares the same three-movement construction as the Brandenburg examples, though. According to the program notes, “The slow inner movement is given short shrift in favor of the flashy outer movements, which provide ample opportunities for the trumpet soloists to showcase their skills.”
Kastner pointed out that the concerts at St. John’s are special. “Because it is smaller, there will be a lot of interaction,” she said. “St. John’s only seats about 300 people, so you have a much better view of musicians. It is a much more intimate environment.”
Another unique aspect of this concert is that FSO’s music director, Stefan Sanders, will be there. Kastner noted that in the past, the concerts at St. John’s were usually run by the musicians performing. “Stefan will be speaking about the music as well,” Kastner said.
The symphony’s mission to educate, entertain and inspire demands outreach to the community as well as affordability. Tickets for this event cost between $10 and $27. “Tickets to our events don’t cost more than $30,” said Kastner.
The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Visit www.fayettevillesymphony.org or call910-433-4690 for tickets and information. The website also provides a link to the program notes under the Season Concerts tab.